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TV station raided, journalists detained

(NUSOJ/IFEX) – 15 January 2012 – The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has lashed out at Somaliland for the latest bout of repression of media freedom following "unwarranted" closure of private television network, arrest of 9 media practitioners, and "illegal" detention of eight reporters.

On 14 January, at around 6:45pm, Somaliland police stormed the main headquarters of HornCable TV in Hargeisa and sealed the offices. The police threw out the staff. Two production studios of the television network in Haregisa, which were not in the same building of the headquarters, were also closed down.

At around 8:15pm on Saturday, the police also descended on the TV's broadcasting station and shut down the transmitter after realising that the broadcast was still continuing. The police forcefully entered the transmitting station and forced the news off the air. Nearly 100 Somaliland police soldiers with seven armoured vehicles executed this abrupt action, according to Abdullahi Wayab, editor-in-chief of HornCable TV, who spoke to NUSOJ in Hargeisa. Police officers have been re-routing traffic away from the area, Wayab added.

The police unit, which was led by an officer with the name Mohamed Du'alle, informed the management of HornCable TV that the police could not show a warrant but they were acting on higher orders. During this operation, the police briefly arrested Mohamed Abdi Sheik, East Africa Director of HornCable TV.

Horn Cable TV journalists told NUSOJ that Somaliland authorities are furious over reports aired by the TV station about a tribal meeting in the Taleeh district of Sool region, in which tribal politicians and elders announced an autonomous administration. The station is also allegedly broadcast views of people who criticized the Somaliland administration for not preventing this meeting from taking place. Somaliland claims to control Sool, Sanag and Eyn regions.

This attack comes after Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mahamoud Silanyo addressed the two chambers (House of Elders and House of Representatives) of Somaliland parliament on January 14. Silanyo made a tempestuous reference to HornCable TV in his speech as being a "nation destructor".

NUSOJ views the law enforcement body as backward and illegal, who without any court order, arrogates to themselves the right to seal offices, shut down broadcasting and throw out journalists and thereby hampers the practice of independent journalism.

On the morning of 15 January 2012, journalists from HornCable TV staged a peaceful protest in front of the Somaliland presidential palace, where the presidential guard beat up protestors and arrested eight journalists. The names of the arrested journalists are: Ms. Nimco Sabriye, Mr. Hamsa Ali Bulbul, Mr. Mohamed Gurashe, Mr. Abdirahman Sheik Yunes, Mr. Ayan Diriye, Ms. Nimo' Diriye, Ms. Hodan Ali Ajabi, Ms. Safiya Nuh Sheikh. Further to this brutal repression, Farhan Haji Ali Ahmed, owner of HornCable TV, was summoned by the Somali Presidency for questioning.

"We roundly condemn this despicable act of barbarity against HornCable TV and its journalists. We denounce in particular the speech to Silanyo which maligned the station," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We express our firm support for the management and the media workers of HornCable TV".

NUSOJ calls on the Somaliland authorities to respect the internationally recognised standards of freedom of expression and freedom of the press it purports to uphold, and to cease all further acts of harassments and intimidations against journalists and media houses.

"Operations against private media continue to go hand in hand with sustained harassment, intimidation, arrests and persecution in Somaliland since August 2010," said Ahmed Mohamud Mohamed, NUSOJ Secretary for Labour Issues, who is also news editor of HornCable TV in Bossasso, Puntland. "This act is a blatant misuse of powers by authorities".

The wave of media repression has resulted in four journalists being detained in Borame and Las Anod. Mohamed Omar Sheik, reporter for Saxafi newspaper, is detained in Borame for publishing reports creating confrontations in Awdal region. Ali Ismail Aare of Waheen newspaper is detained in Borame for taking a picture of a petrol station allegedly owned by Somaliland Vice President Abdirahman Abdallahi Ismail Saylici.

On 9 January 2012, Somaliland police arrested Abdqani Hassan Farah, nicknamed Gadari, who is a reporter for Universal TV in the Las Anod district of Sool region, northern Somalia. Farah is being detained without charge.

On 8 January, Royal TV reporter Yusuf Abdi Ali, publicly known as Indho Quruh, was arrested by Somaliland police in Borame district. Borame police stated that they received a complaint against the journalist alleging that he falsely reported on "corruption by humanitarian NGOs," who expressed annoyance about the journalist's news report to police. Ali is being detained at Borame central police station. The police secretly took Ali's case to district and got permission to detain him up to 45 days to conclude their investigations.

NUSOJ calls on Somaliland's top leaders, including President Silanyo, to remove police stationed at the offices of HornCable TV, to release all detained journalists including those detained in Borame and Las Anod, and to allow the media to operate freely and without fear of repercussion.

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